One of my pals from the old movie-theater days recently tagged me with this meme over on Facebook. The idea is to list "15 movies that will always stick with you," which I interpreted to mean those flicks for which I can still recall the circumstances of my first seeing them, or movies that have some special meaning or memory for me. These are not necessarily my picks for the best movies I've ever seen, or even my favorite movies -- although I'd be willing to call all of them faves, if you pressed me on it -- but rather these are ones that have, well, stayed with me over the years. You're not supposed to think too much about this exercise, though; the instructions call for you to just throw out the first 15 titles that come to mind, and you're not supposed to take any longer than 15 minutes to do it (as if it would take me 15 minutes to come up with a mere 15 titles!).
Following what seems to have become my usual custom for these Facebook things, I'm going to repost the results here, with some additional commentary. Hey, just think of this as the Expanded Edition! And in case you're wondering, I came up with this list in about three minutes, instead of the allotted 15. Because I'm a show-off that way.
- Star Wars
No surprise here, at least not for my Loyal Readers. As I'm sure they're all sick of hearing by now, this was the first film that made any significant impact on me... and, boy, did it! It was the defining pop-cultural event of my life, and of my generation.
- The Empire Strikes Back
The first movie I waited to see, in the sense of anxiously counting down the weeks and days until it finally opened in theaters. Also the first movie that had its ending spoiled for me, but that's another story.
- Superman the Movie
Another iconic event-movie for my gen, made poignant because of what happened years later to its star, Christopher Reeve. I can clearly remember how the Hackensack-bound nuclear missile seemed to cruise away from me then suddenly jig back as the image followed the contours of the curved screen at the old Villa Theatre.
Explaining why this silly B-grade superhero/revenge movie "sticks with me" is a long story; let's just say I was in the right frame of mind when it debuted to identify with its title character, and I took a lot of shit for attempting to defend it against the majority opinion of my peers (which was, in a nutshell, "it sucks"). On the positive side, it has become my personal symbol for not being afraid to just like the stuff I like, even if others think it's stupid.
I first saw this classic in middle school; I watched it in my room on PBS fairly late one night, waaaay before I knew that I was supposed to love and admire Casablanca simply because it's Casablanca. I think I appreciate and love it more every time I see it. Crackling dialog, a beautiful visual look and atmosphere, Bogart's signature role, Claude Rains with an amused gleam in his eye throughout, and Ingrid Bergman at her most Ingrid-Bergmany. I never get tired of this one.
- Escape from New York
For a few years of my childhood, my mom took occasional shifts at a local store called Sharon's TV and Appliance, just down the street from our house. Sharon's was one of the first places in Riverton that rented home-video media, notably the long-forgotten "videodisc" format (these were not laserdiscs; they were like a record, with grooves that were played by a stylus). Sometimes after school, I'd go hang out with my mom at the store and watch a movie or two on the big projection-TV in the corner. Escape was one of those, and I was so spellbound by the utter coolness of it that I talked mom into sticking around past closing time so I could see how it ended.
- The Terminator
As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best movies of the '80s, in any genre, but thinking about it always triggers two vivid and fond memories of two very different viewing experiences: In one, I'm 14 years old, literally on the edge of my seat in the living room of my best buddy Kurt Stephensen, oblivious to the bright summer-morning sun trying to find a chink in his curtains, wondering how that damn Slavic 'droid can possibly keep getting back up, and then spending the rest of the day feeling slightly haunted by the sad inevitability of the film's ending. And then in the other, I'm 21 and seeing the flick on the big screen for the first time with my friends from the movie theater where I work. The sequel is opening shortly, the original film is now revered as a classic, and I'm an enthusiastic cinephile boring my buddies with my analysis, behind-the-scenes knowledge, and theories about time travel. In both memories, I'm young and happy, and feeling like I'm on the verge of big things. Good times.
- The Breakfast Club
Like I said a few weeks ago, this movie encapsulates a good chunk of my high-school experience.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Too many stories to tell about this one right now. Let's just say this one movie symbolizes, more than any other that came out that first summer I worked at the movie theater, one of the happiest times of my life.
And this one marks one of the sadder times of my life, but the story of an unlikely romance between two people who insisted on being exactly the sorts of people they wanted to be helped me through it. And Lolita Davidovich was really sexy in this; that's definitely stuck with me.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
One of the first movies I ever rented, way back when my parents joined this new-fangled "video club" thing that was all the rage then. Between the three of us, we took home a whole stack of VHS cassettes that first, heady weekend, but this is the only title I recall, in part because I'd heard about it for so very long -- it was referenced in every book and magazine article I'd ever seen on sci-fi movies -- and now I was finally going to see what all the fuss was about, and also, I'm sure, because I watched it three or four times trying to understand it.
- Dances with Wolves
Thinking of this one now doesn't remind me of any specific experiences -- although I did take a young lady named Stephanie to see it with me; she had great hair, as I recall -- so much as it does an overall sense of what a particular time in my life felt like. What I felt like then.
The first time my parents let me go somewhere with a friend who had a driver's license and a vehicle of his own -- it was a beat-up old pickup, I believe -- it was to see this flick. And it was an appropriate one, too, since it was about two young guys looking for adventure, just like me and my buddy Tim Lee. I think this movie also planted the bug in me to see Europe, or at least contributed to the idea...
- American Graffiti
As with Dances with Wolves, I don't have any specific memories associated with this one, I just think it's a great movie that I've always thoroughly enjoyed.
- An American Werewolf in London
Another one I saw on home video as a kid, it's always stood out in my mind because of the dizzying way it veers from laugh-out-loud comedy to splatter-style horror. And of course, I can't forget my mom jumping up and standing in front of our old console TV during the steamy sex scene between David Naughton and Jenny Agutter. She tried her best to protect my impressionable brain, but between this and Logan's Run, I still have a thing for Jenny Agutter...
You know, these memes are always somewhat frustrating for me... I could easily keep talking about this subject for hours...